How Being Proactive Can Make Translation Agency Projects More Rewarding
In my last post, I wrote about 5 steps for setting the tone with clients during quoting, which essentially involves ways for translators to be proactive in discussions with their own direct clients. Now I’ll apply the same type of thinking to relationships between translators and translation agencies.
Preferred supplier model
Some translation agencies make a bigger commitment toward striving to use the same preferred translator (or translators) for a specific end client. Some translators also make a bigger commitment toward prioritizing projects for recurring end clients they are matched with through a translation agency. Other translation agencies may focus more on choosing whoever happens to be available faster at the moment, and other translators are less particular about prioritizing any one job or type of job over another.
The trend you can see here is that generalist translators and bulk translation agencies more focused on high volumes than consistency are a good fit for each other, while specialized translators and translation agencies with preferred supplier models fit together well.
Why not be proactive in speaking with translation agencies openly about this? Find out whether you share the same vision on this and whether you are both interested in a similar type of commitment toward the model. I suspect there are some translation agencies which have both types of operations under the same roof. This is why it can be useful to identify yourself as wanting to and deserving to work for the agency’s more high-profile clients that require preferred suppliers.
Specialization is a strong underlying factor behind the preferred supplier model. It makes it easier for a translation agency to decide which jobs to send to which translators. It makes it easier for translators to decide which jobs they want to take from which translation agencies, and from which end clients through the translation agencies. It makes it easier for all parties to achieve greater consistency and better serve recurring clients with similar types of work. It generally makes this work more lucrative for the translator in the long run.
Even if you are willing to work/comfortable working in other fields, I have found that it makes things much clearer and simpler if you prioritize a specific field of specialization and tell the translation agency about this. If I take myself as an example, several years ago I used to simply say that I translate legal, financial and marketing texts. Now I tell translation agencies, other translators and external business contacts that my main specialization is financial communications and I am especially interested in financial reports, even though I am also comfortable translating contracts, corporate legal and marketing/web texts. This way translation agencies know that I prefer financial reports, and if there is someone else who says their main specialization is contracts but they are also comfortable with financial reports, then the agency knows who to turn to as a first choice for each of those things instead of just having a long list of people who are willing to work on contracts, financial reports etc. with no distinction between them.
Now what does this have to with being proactive you ask? Well, clearly communicating your specialization means you are proactively saying what kind of work you want, as opposed to just saying I can do almost anything and passively waiting to see what work is sent your way.
Regularly assess projects and set priorities
Let’s say in this example that you are the preferred supplier for five recurring end clients through the same translation agency. Assess how lucrative each one is for you by comparing how long each project took you in proportion to how much you were paid (I will write more in future posts about methods to calculate this). This will enable you to discover which types of projects are more lucrative for you and which end clients are a better fit for you.
Tell the translation agency which end clients you prefer and want to prioritize the most. If there is one out of these five that is substantially less lucrative than the other four on average, you might consider telling the agency that you would prefer to no longer be the preferred supplier for this client or that you would need to raise your rate to continue being the preferred supplier. Tell them you would like more recurring clients with projects similar to the ones that turned out to be more lucrative for you.
This type of assessment will also help you decide on a more in-depth specialization if you were unsure at first or still had a slightly broader range of fields you wanted to work in. This also enables you to proactively adapt priorities and make smart decisions on an ongoing basis. It’s useful to have a discussion with the translation agency at least on an annual basis to coordinate which jobs you want more and less of and communicate preferences with respect to recurring clients.
Get advance notice for high-priority clients
Now that you have figured out which end clients you want to prioritize and told the translation agency, another thing you can do is to ask the agency to help you get as much advance notice as possible of important upcoming projects from the end client. This will help you to prioritize these projects in practice and makes things easier for everyone. As opposed to sitting and waiting for projects to come in, it’s being proactive to ask and find out in advance.
Using these proactive approaches to translation agency projects should give translators a clearer specialization and stronger business skills, both of which are excellent stepping stones for building your own direct client base. Or, if you prefer not to handle your own clients, they are also useful for making your agency projects more rewarding and stable over the long term.
This model enables translation agencies to deliver consistent quality to their clients and have stronger relationships with their translators as well.